Beijing, Nov 20 (IANS) Animal welfare groups in China are now challenging an ages-old tradition of eating dogs, urging people to change their ‘nasty habit’.

Citing health reasons and animal rights, a few groups are resorting to advertisements and social campaigns to dissuade people from eating dogs.

Such a campaign is, however, irritating meat traders and fans of the cuisine, popular in northeastern and southern parts of China, says the China Daily.

Fang Dan, director of the publicity department of Ta Foundation, a private group working for animal welfare, said videos calling for people to give up eating dogs are being broadcast every day on Beijing’s outdoor advertising

screens.

Celebrities were invited to be part of the videos. In one video, a presenter said dog meat was ‘not quarantined and contains large amounts of bacteria’ and so people should not eat it.

Eating dogs in China dates back to the Neolithic Age. In winter, eating dog meat is socially acceptable as people believe it has medicinal qualities.

In an encyclopaedia on traditional Chinese medicine written during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.), four prescriptions containing dog meat have been recorded.

Jin Meihua, deputy director of the Jilin Provincial Academy of Social Sciences’ Centre for Northeast Asian Studies, said: ‘It’s a tradition, it’s part of life … it has never caused any controversy here.’

In October, a Chinese animal protection group saved nearly 800 dogs from traders in Zigong in southwest Sichuan province.

A 600-year-old dog meat festival in Zhejiang province was cancelled permanently in September after animal rights groups launched an online campaign to protest the slaughter of dogs at the event.

Some restaurants have also given up serving dog meat.

A Korean restaurant in Beijing has stopped providing dog meat after receiving protests from many animal protection organisations.

Zhang Dan, co-founder of China Animal Protection Media Saloon, established in 2009, said the government has not promoted the legislation or publicity against eating dogs.

However, those who make a living from dog meat do not like the idea of banning the dishes.

‘My family ekes out a living from selling dog meat, and I was raised by my parents that way,’ said Zhang Guiping, the 42-year-old owner of a restaurant in Guizhou province, where dog cuisine is famous.

Many Chinese consumers are not convinced either. They do not think dog meat was different from pork and mutton.

A Beijing resident Huang Xiaoshan wrote on his blog that if people stop eating dog meat, animal protection groups may continue to ‘persuade people not to have beef, chicken and fish’.

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